The day ‘clean coal’ died


Three days later, the traditional media has finally picked up the shocking toxic coal sludge story (see “Clean coal, meet harsh reality“). It was on NBC last night (among other networks). Elliott Negin of the Union of Concerned Scientists explained:

This disaster shows that the term ‘clean coal’ is an oxymoron. It’s akin to saying ‘safe cigarette.’ Clean coal doesn’t exist.

TP has the video:

The NYT reports:

Even as the authority played down the risks, the spill reignited a debate over whether the federal government should regulate coal ash as a hazardous material. Similar ponds and mounds of ash exist at hundreds of coal plants around the nation.

Perhaps everyone will see finally ‘clean coal’ for what it is — claptrap. And perhaps the shocking footage will lead to better anti-clean-coal ads.

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22 Responses to The day ‘clean coal’ died

  1. Russ says:

    This lays bare just as much as MTR why no true environmentalist can support CCS: that everything about coal is nothing more or less than an absolute assault on the earth and humanity.

  2. John Hollenberg says:

    MTR? Membrane Technology and Research? Metro Transit Railway? Military Training Routes? Motion to Reopen?

    Apparently, google is of no help here…

  3. Wes Rolley says:

    Maybe it is time to arrest Sen. Robert Byrd for 6.7 billion instances of attempted murder. When that much political power belongs to one industry, as it does with Coal and West Virgina there is really little hope. When the Democratic Party is willing to strip Byrd, the so called Dean of the Senate of any authority or influence over energy legislation, then I will believe that change has come to Washington.

  4. Joe says:

    Mountain top removal.

    Hint for google users on acronyms — throw in a key word. Hence “MTR coal” gets you where you want to go!

  5. john says:

    It’s absolutely appalling that TVA has not evacuated the folks, declared the entire area a toxic waste hazard, and begun proceedings to relocate them permanently. “Heckofajob, Brownie;” this time you’re leaving folks in the middle of a site that will doom them to cancer at rates 100x background.

  6. Will Sarni says:

    “Clean coal” is not dead as it is a marketing and PR pitch. This will continue until the life cycle of coal is discussed and not just carbon capture. Perhaps a revitalized USEPA will start to constructively address the broader challenges of coal.

  7. Christian says:

    Should we expect to see a Superfund cleanup, considering the Times article reported heavy EPA involvement in the recovery effort?

  8. If coal ash were regulated as a hazardous material, OF COURSE every coal fired power plant in the country or world would have to be shut down instantly. Coal contains so much uranium and thorium that coal ash was once considered as THE source for uranium. That was during the Manhattan project before higher grade uranium ore was discovered in the ground in many places. But make no mistake, coal ash IS uranium ore. Coal fired power plants put 100 to 400 TIMES as much radioactive material into the environment as nuclear power plants are permitted to.
    Could somebody please relay this information to the TV networks?
    Reference Oak Ridge [Tennesee] National Laboratory report:

  9. Jade A. says:

    May this will make BHO shut his trap about “clean coal” technology.

  10. Scatter says:

    “..why no true environmentalist can support CCS..”

    What about CCS from natural gas?

  11. The only CCS should be Bio-fuel CCS. (Without deforestation.)

  12. Russ says:

    “CCS from natural gas” – If CCS for cheaper coal seems to the industry to be an insurmountable financial, logistics, and liability boondoggle, I’d be surprised if anyone wanted to take the plunge with more expensive natural gas (which also has better PR regarding its emissions).

    After all, they’ve had three small-scale plants running for years now, so in principle it ought to be ready to scale up if anybody wanted to do it.

  13. Isn’t it funny that the coal industry talk so much about CCS as the solution? After all, if CCS is introduced in big scale, they must shut down old coal-fired power? Otherwise it wouldn’t help. Has anyone heard the coal industry talking about it? (And of course electricity would be a lot more expensive.)
    However, one of the reasons they don’t talk about Bio-fueled CCS is that they don’t own that type of carbon.
    And the bio-fuel industry don’t talk about CCS -since they only emit “green” CO2.

  14. David B. Benson says:

    The problem is that it is quite espensive to separate CO2 from the rest of the flue gas. With biomass, one does not have to try so hard: Ferment biomass in a digester to form biogasse; separate the methane in the biogasse from everything else; this is known, proven and used technology. The ‘everything else’ is almost completely CO2 with some minor additions. Then sequester the ‘everythng else’ using whatever means seem best.

    Approximately, there will be, by weight, three parts CO2 to two parts methane.

  15. Bio-CCS… David: You have to sequester the carbon dioxide after burning the methane as well.
    But you don’t have to create biogas, you can burn the wooden chips just like you (they) burn fossil coal, and then apply the CCS.
    I’ve talked to representatives from Vattenfall (largest energy company in Sweden) and they say it’s easy to replace coal with wooden chips. But it is to expensive (because they don’t own any forests). However, Bio-CCS really would take away carbon from the atmosphere (given that it doesn’t come along with deforestation), not just lower the emissions.

  16. David B. Benson says:

    Martin Hedberg — After burning the biomethane, the flue gas is only about 6% CO2; very expensive to capture. My suggestion captures 80% of the carbon so is an ‘80% carbon negative” solution.

    That’s good enough, methinks, given that the CCS part is so inexpensive.

  17. David B. Benson says:

    Oops. 34.35%, not 80%.

    Still, no expensive carbon capture and the whole thing is still carbon-negative.

  18. Jim Bullis says:

    David B. Benson-

    The correction from 80% to 34% seems to make sense. What is the corresponding correction for your “6% CO2” in the flue gas.

    I would assume that it would be about same as natural gas, both being chemically, CH4 more or less. One CH4 molecule should end up as one CO2 molecule and two H2O molecules. One mole of CO2 gas occupies 22.4 liters and two moles of H2O occupies 44.8 liters if my 55 year old memory cells are still correctly readable.

    But I was just trying to show off. After condensation the flue gas would be 100% CO2 so the mix does not matter at all. Though I think I answered my original question.

  19. David B. Benson says:

    Jim Bullis — Flue gas (the result of burning in air) varies from 6% from burning natural gas to 15.5% from burning wood.

  20. David B. Benson says:

    That is for dry weight.

  21. David Lewis says:

    One recommendation in the IAC report Stephen Chu co-chaired said this about CCS:

    “pursue carbon capture and storage with systems that co-fire coal and biomass. This technology combination provides an opportunity to achieve net negative greenhouse gas emissions – effectively removing CO2 from the atmosphere”.

    One way to make the capture of CO2 easier is to burn whatever is burned in pure O2. This is the process used in the Schwarze Pumpe plant in Germany.

  22. Dennis Denuto says:

    Tangential but interesting. Hartfield Ferry coal-fired plant finally gets scrubbers install to cut SOx etc. and reduce air pollution, plans to discharge the increased heavy-metal-laden waste water stream directly into the Monogahela River.